Lake Kivu is the largest of numerous freshwater lakes that shimmer in the valleys of Rwanda. Steep, terraced hills lead down to the picturesque lake shore, and three resort towns - Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu. These small towns come as welcome retreats in between the sometimes strenuous hikes to find gorillas and chimpazees in the surrounding Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest National Parks.
Here, visitors can relax, swim, or take a boat excursion past the small lakeside villages that offer a rewarding glimpse of rural life. The towns are connected by a wide roller-coaster road that tumbles through lush plantain fields and relic patches of misty rainforest to offer sweeping views over the shimmering lake.
Set amid the dramatic mountains of the Rift Valley and the volcanic Virunga mountains to the north, the irregular shores of Lake Kivu form numerous inlets and peninsulas and myriad forest-fringed waterfalls. Lake Kivu is set within the rift valley, making it one of the deepest in the world.
The lake is a 2650 sq km freshwater expanse and the largest of all the lakes that fill the valleys of Rwanda. It pours into the Ruzizi River, which flows southward into Lake Tanganyika.
Guests can anticipate seeing local fisherman oaring through the still waters in traditional dug-out canoes, while brightly-dressed women adorn the villages, playing the "iningire" (guitar) and smoking from wooden pipes.
Lake Kivu is the perfect retreat in between gorilla safaris and chimpanzee trekking in the nearby national parks.
Organised boat excursions offer guests a way to explore the expanse of the lake and its surroundings, including the rural life lived out in the villages at the lake's edge.
Cormoran Lodge is located in the village of Kibuye on the eastern shores of Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Cormoran Lodge is a pleasant place to stay, perfectly situated to break the journey between Virunga Mountains and Nyungwe Forest. Log cabins set up on stilts on steep slopes above a small raised beach.
Serenely situated on the white sandy shores of Lake Kivu, surrounded by extensive tropical gardens, the tastefully open-plan Lake Kivu Serena Hotel offers the ideal Rwanda retreat. It overlooks its own private beach and offers 66 luxury rooms, executive suites and family accommodation, a panoramic restaurant, indoor and beachside bars.
Enjoy the beautifully located log-cabin Cormoran Lodge for an overnight while on a gorilla trekking trip, or stay longer for a laid-back holiday at the lake. This blissfully comfortable lodge is located in the village of Kibuye on the eastern shores of Lake Kivu in a small bay with only a handful of rooms positioned on stilts and overlooking the glistening expanse of the lake.
All Rwanda safaris begin in the capital city, Kigali. The Kigali International Airport is the only airport that receives flights from South Africa (OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg), while Kamembe International Airport in Rwanda’s Western Province only receives flights from Uganda, Tanzania and the DRC.
The safari locations within the country can be reached via light air transfers from Kigali landing at local airstrips.
Sun Safaris will arrange flights for their guests from OR Tambo to Kigali, or guests will fly to Nairobi, Kenya, and then to Kigali depending on prior arrangements. Guests will spend a night at a hotel in Kigali before catching a scheduled flight to their safari destination. Once having arrived at the local airstrip, guests will connect with a road transfer to their booked accommodation.
Discovering the three colourful lakeside resort towns, pursuing the various water sports they have to offer, and boating to the numerous islands on the lake are just some of the activities available in the area. Away from the main resorts, Rwanda's lakes offer visitors rewarding glimpses into ancient African lifestyles, as men go about their fishing and women fill the air with the strummed sound of a traditional guitar.
Birdlife around the lakes is fantastic and includes large numbers of pelicans, crowned cranes, malachite kingfishers and much more. For sun-bathing, swimming and water sport acitivities, the Rwanda Riveira town of Gisenyi offers speedboats, canoes, and casual mountain walks and picnics.
Ideally, guests can base themselves at one of the lovely accommodations around Lake Kivu and alternate between days spent lake-side with feet up, and days spent on thrilling excursions to find the primates dwelling in the rainforests of Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Park.
The country of Rwanda is at a high elevation level, the lowest lying areas estimated at about 900m above sea level. The mountainous topography, particularly in the gorilla trekking areas, means that the altitude can reach up to 3000m.
The elevation, combined with Rwanda’s proximity to the equator allows the country to experience quite a tropical climate with temperatures remaining fairly constant throughout the year. Average temperatures are at mid to low 20s (degrees Celsius).
Rainfall defines the seasons in Rwanda. There is a ‘long rainy season’ that lasts from March until May, during which time the rain is heavy and persistent. June to September brings the ‘long dry season’, which maintains some cloud cover and might bring rare, light showers. The short rains follow in October and November before a short dry spell returns from December to February.
The best time for a gorilla trekking safari is in the dry seasons when the hiking conditions are ideal.